Who I Am

Who Am I ?

At one time or another, everyone faces this question. Sometimes we follow it up with who do I want to be or where do I see my self in 5 years, but the starting point is always, who am I? It’s sometimes that big philosophical moment, that moment of addressing the human condition or even a self-inspection of our own souls. Yet it is the bedrock of who we are. That core of what makes who up who I am. So who am I?

Now I could list the things I am.  A mum, a daughter, a partner, a call centre worker. I am depressed. Is that me?

No.

Who I am is so much more, even if I don’t see it myself a lot of the time.

Getting To The Crux

So what’s got me thinking about all this? Well, to do that I’ve got to tell you a little story. Someone in my life who I love very much has hurt me, repeatedly in the last few months, someone who I would never have thought would. Called me unforgivable things. Rejected me and Alex when we’ve tried to reach out to them. Ignored us for weeks on end. This person has promised over and over that they’ll change, that they’re sorry and that they won’t do it again, to then repeat the whole process, again and again. It’s been agonising for both of us.  Believe me, there is a lot of anger both in me and Alex about this.

Then this morning, a call came. This person needed help. Nothing huge, but they needed a lift and they called me. So what did I do?

Now you could ( quite rightly) argue that I told this person to swing their hook. They’ve hurt me and those who I love, over and over. Why should I help them?

Because at the crux of me, that is who I am. Who I am is the person that if someone calls and says they need help, I help. No matter how much they’ve hurt me. I am the person who will answer that call, go out in the dark to take a friend food when they haven’t eaten, lend money when I don’t really have it to give. Buy someone a gift they can’t afford for themselves because I know it will help lift them out of the darkness.

It’s who I am.

I know, it’s annoying as anything. Because more often than not I will end up getting hurt again. But does that mean I won’t help? No. Does it mean I have forgotten or forgiven those actions? Definitely a NO. Believe me, you have no idea of the anger I felt this morning when this call came. It would have been very easy to leave them stranded.

But as I say, that’s not who I am. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. It certainly doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven their actions. (they may have had quite an earful about it on the car ride) It’s just, this is me. It’s conflicting and annoying and it can contribute to my mental health issues in a terrible way sometimes. The impact of having people you care about you use and abuse you can be huge. I am learning to build up walls to that, but it’s slow.  And it goes for everyone in my life.

Now I know that I’ve mentioned the movie ‘Moana’ before, but one of the lines from my favourite songs in the movie looks at the issue of who you are.

“Who am I? I am the girl who loves my island, and the girl who loves the sea. It calls me…………..I am everything I’ve learned and more”

For the character loving her island and the sea is conflicting and even against the wishes of her parents. They are angry and fearful that she will be hurt because of her fathers own experiences. I get that. I see why Alex is so angry with the people who hurt me, it reminds him too much of his own hurts. But does it mean I should change one of the core things of who I am? One of the things that he loves about me?

I truly hope not.

Like I said, I have not forgiven or forgotten. I am learning. But this part of me, no I won’t change it. It’s who I am.

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Living With a Partner With BPD

The Ups and Downs of Living With a Partner With BPD

First off, to clear any confusion, I’m referring to borderline personality disorder, not bipolar. Two very different animals on the spectrum of mental health issues. No, I want to talk about BPD because I live  with (and love) someone who suffers with it. Living with a partner with BPD can be incredibly difficult, sometimes painful and draining. It can also be wonderful and exciting and incredibly loving.

For a long time Alex and I assumed (along with his doctor) that he was battling depression and anxiety, and yes he does have symptoms of both conditions. But when there seemed to be no obvious triggers or cause, it slowly became apparent that something else was going on. Certain aspects of how he suffered just didn’t fit. For example, the harrowing void where he literally feels nothing, not for himself or for anyone else. He’s shut off to a point where no-one can reach him. It was so vastly different from how I would describe the numbness of depression. The times where you have to be numb because otherwise your feelings would overwhelm you. It just wasn’t the same.
It was literally feelings of nothing. Not for anyone or anything. Empathy, compassion…all gone. To hear someone you love say this is how they feel is both heartbreaking and terrifying.  I’ll be honest it frightened me, and was perhaps the biggest clue that Alex was not just dealing with depression. I will be honest I genuinely feared we were looking at something more akin to him being diagnosed as a sociopath. But even I knew that didn’t really fit either. It was only after long discussions with the psychiatrist that he finally filled in the gaps and diagnosed Alex as having BPD.
What’s in Their Head
Living with BPD is exhausting and depressing for the sufferer. Their emotions are so wildly out of kilter sometimes. Part of them knows how they are behaving is not appropriate to the situation, which in turn leads to feelings of inadequacy.  They beat themselves up because they know their irritability at the world is out of proportion, they struggle to show sadness and then feel guilty because they couldn’t. They can be over-excitable to the point of annoyance. Logical one minute and chaotic the next. After seeing Alex day in, day out, struggling to cope just like this, and reading up online, it became increasingly apparent I was living with a partner with BPD. Getting the firm diagnosis from the doctor only came about after he’d talked with both of us. When I described the vast shift from highly excitable to down in the depths of despair that occurs (sometimes multiple times within an hour, let alone a day) the treatment focus moved away from depression to Borderline Personality Disorder.
But what makes it worse is how others can see it. They mistake the irritability and isolatory behaviour as rude or aggressive. They see the difficulty in expressing emotions as being narcissistic. The truth is sufferers of BPD do feel, they’re often very loving, there’s just something blocking it. Maybe fear of not being able to control it? That the emotions will so consume them they will end up in chaos ? All I know that with Alex, it’s incredibly hard for him. Being vulnerable, either with me or the children, is something that he truly struggles with. Watching him go from feeling nothing at all to emotions so intense they are crippling, is hard. There are times when it breaks my heart as I watch while he battles against it.
Know What You’re Getting Into !
Living with a partner with BPD can be extremely difficult. It will require patience, understanding and love. BPD sufferers often have issues maintaining relationships because the vast majority of people don’t bother to look past what they see. They hit the wall of irritability or emotionlessness and give up. They take it personally and write off that person as ‘a tool’ and walk away. Which then just feeds the depressive symptoms, it reinforces their feelings of inadequacy and forces them to become even more isolated.
Yet behind it is someone who loves, deeply. They care incredibly about what others feel. Their empathy for others is both a gift and a curse, because they take things very, very personally. When someone they care about walks away, someone who they would have moved mountains to help, it wounds like nothing you have ever known. So somewhere along the lines they learn an instinctive defence to just not feel. It’s better than getting hurt.
But break past that, be patient (and believe me sometimes a saint’s patience would be tested) and it’s worth it. It will be a bond like you’ve never known. Yes it will be difficult, but at their heart is someone who loves fiercely and completely, they’d defend you to the end. So don’t mix up when they’re being irritable because you didn’t answer their message as them being a tool, it’s just because to them, it hurt. It equates in their head that they’re just not important to you. A lie that their condition has constructed. But one their condition tells them daily and has sadly been reinforced by all those who walked away before you.
So, you will have to be strong. But like I said, it’s worth it. Practise your own self care.  And talk. One of the biggest ways we’ve been able to move forward is by sitting down and talking. When the irritability side of BPD has been getting the better of Alex, the fastest way to stop him in his tracks was to talk to him about it. Just a gentle reminder that we are on the same team.  Or it can be just give them some space. If they don’t want hugs, don’t. Just remind them you’re there.
My final piece of advice is that no-one is perfect at dealing with a loved one with mental health issues. I get it wrong. We all will at some time or another. The important thing is we keep trying.

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A Protected Bubble

Protected, Life In a Plastic Bubble

Have you heard of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble?  From 1976, the film stars John Travolta and is about a boy who was born with a dysfunctional immune system.  Contact with normal, unfiltered air might kill him, and so he has to live in conditions that can only be described as like an incubator.  If he emerges, he might die.  As such, he has to live his life inside that bubble, protected from the things that might cause him harm or kill him.

Now why the bubble?  What could that possibly have to do with mental health, I hear you ask?  After all, it’s not as if we are contagious or like the world outside will kill us if we come into contact with it.  So what is it?

The answer: protection.

More often than not, when I talk to people on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Imgur accounts, I hear stories that have very similar themes.  People open up about their mental health conditions and others start to treat them differently.  Granted, not everyone does so, but there are definite examples of when people treat them differently.  What am I referring to?  Simply, those friends who will distance themselves and rarely talk.  Others who will almost shun them because they “have a mental health condition”.  In this case, however, it’s more specifically those that suddenly treat us as though we’re fragile.

To Protect Us

Do you find that people start treating you as though you’re made of glass?  After you’ve said, “Yep, I’ve got depression/anxiety/bipolar/etc”, it’s as though you’ve suddenly become that boy in the plastic bubble?  People who would confide in you suddenly stop doing so.  Others who might use you as a sounding board for their problems, or who might come to you for advice start to look elsewhere.

Slowly, one by one, they all abandon you.  Why?

For your protection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes that’s what we need.  We have the struggles of our own mental health and own life events to worry about, do we need the added pressure of other people’s lives on top of that?  Not always, no.  For some, that might actually succeed in making them feel more anxious.  But is that the case for everyone?  I don’t believe so.

There are two points that I want to make here, ones that I firmly believe in and hope that everyone else will have heard of at least once:

  1. We are exactly the same person that we were before we disclosed our mental health conditions to you.
  2. We might be sick, but that does not mean we’re weak.

Have you seen those words on social media or heard them from someone?  I know I have.  But what do they mean for us?  Us, as friends and family members of people who suffer.

I’m the Same Person

Believe it or not, I’m exactly the same person I was before you knew about my mental illness.  For the majority of us, once we are diagnosed, we don’t normally go shouting our condition from the rooftops.  Stigma tends to keep a pretty good wrap on that one!  If we’ve told you we are struggling, whatever that might be with, the chances are we’ve been suffering for a few weeks, maybe a few months or, if we’re really secretive and private, a few years!  So why should we be different now?

Realistically, we’re not.  We are the same person.  You just know a different aspect of us, the same way you might come to my house and suddenly discover I love Star Wars and Star Trek.  I don’t shout about it or advertise it, but it’s a part of me.  With that in mind, why exactly do people stop sharing problems with us or hide bad days from us?  To spare us?

Protected From Problems

I can understand that people would want to protect us from their problems.  After all, there is always that fear of making things worse for us, especially those of us who struggle with mental health.  The line “but I don’t want to make you worse” is often dragged out as the reasoning behind someone declining our offer of help.  It’s understandable that people would feel this way but is it justifiable?

No.

Granted, there will be times when we can’t handle someone else’s problems on top of our own.  We all have those days where everything is going wrong, where we can’t handle everything being thrown at us.  I get that frequently in my journey.  That doesn’t mean I can’t support you, even in a limited capacity.  Protecting me from your problems isn’t necessary.  If I can’t handle it, then I can’t handle it but realistically it won’t make me worse.  My mood might dip for a moment or half an hour or something, but it cannot and will not make me worse than I already am.

This is definitely an approach subjective to each individual, but I find hiding those problems for fear of making me worse can actually be the cause of that feared harm.  If I pick up on the fact that someone is struggling but hiding it from me, it kicks my mind into overdrive, telling me they don’t value me, that my help isn’t good enough, that I can’t fix their problems.  The list goes on.  Even though I know these aren’t true and that the problem, in this case, lies with me (in what I’m thinking), it doesn’t stop them from coming.  I still fear the reasoning behind why you’re keeping the problems from me.

So What Am I Saying?

What am I saying?  At the end of the day, keeping us inside that plastic bubble will prevent us from growing.  How can we learn to cope with different stressors in addition to our conditions if people keep things from us and prevent us from helping?  For those of us who find relief in helping others, how are we meant to find that relief?  While it’s definitely a subjective approach to each individual – as some won’t be able to handle it – it’s something that people need to consider seriously.

As Cheryl has stated previously, perhaps we are never meant to be complete but, instead, we can be broken together.  Even in our collective weaknesses, we can find strength and get each other through.  We don’t have to be whole, we don’t have to have it all together or know where we’re going.  It’s OK.

 

We don’t have to be kept in that plastic bubble to survive.

We can be broken together.

So please, don’t feel like you’re burdening us.  You tell us we’re not a burden, well neither are you.  So can we just be broken together?

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Reactive vs Endogenous

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This particular post is one that was requested when I was asked what my trigger was for my depression.  It was something that not many people have heard about, as they don’t realise there are a couple of different types of depression, so the person I was talking to requested that I write an article about it.  Let’s have a look!

Reactive vs Endogenous

When I went to see the therapist for my CBT therapy, he did his best to try and find a trigger for my depression.  A lot of the time, there is something that has set it all in motion, which has triggered those feelings of sadness and, thus, culminated in the diagnosis of “depression”.  As he probed, asking question after question, he was increasingly puzzled as there was nothing forthcoming that seemed to be a trigger of any kind.  We went through an extensive list of different things that have happened in my life. Significant break-up?  Death in the family?  I’m sure you can imagine the sorts of questions.  In short, there was nothing.

I had no trigger.

Admittedly, I still haven’t found a trigger, we don’t know what has caused this yet.  Still, it led him to diagnose me with endogenous depression.  That, naturally, then led to the question: what is endogenous depression?  Well, let me tell you.

Reactive Depression

To explain what endogenous depression is, I must first explain reactive depression to you.  This one is the more common of the two and the one that people are more aware of.  According to PatientsLikeMe.com, Reactive Depression is “An inappropriate state of depression that is precipitated by events in the person’s life arising as a consequence of severe life events.”  In other words, it is exactly what it says on the tin: reactive.

One of the most obvious examples to this would be a significant break-up. If your depression is caused because of that then it is known as reactive. Similarly, although it has to be distinguished from normal grief, depression as a result of a death in the family or someone close to you is also reactive.

In a nutshell, reactive depression is the most common type of depression that people identify.  There are almost always triggers for depression, some event that has precipitated the onset of depression.  This is true for most people, at least according to the therapist that I spoke to.

So what does that make endogenous depression?

Endogenous Depression

According to that same therapist, endogenous depression is the other side of the coin.  HealthLine says that it isn’t widely diagnosed, which is probably why not many people have heard of it.  I’d certainly never heard of it when my therapist mentioned it to me, which is probably where my own curiosity into it came from.

So, as far as what it says on the tin, endogenous depression is the opposite of reactive depression.  Endogenous, according to the dictionary, means: “not attributable to any external or environmental factor.”  With this in mind, it stands to reason that endogenous depression would, therefore, be a type of depression with no discernible cause.

My therapist says that’s what I have.

You see, out of all the normal questions that he has to ask, no answers were forthcoming.  For my depression, there seems to be no trigger at all, which suggests that it is endogenous.  Now – again, according to HealthLine – endogenous depression is usually put down to a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors.  They say it occurs without any obvious trigger and the symptoms can often appear suddenly and for no apparent reason.

What Do You Think?

Do you think these two types of depression are basically the same thing? Do you think the professionals are making mountains out of molehills and over-complicating the situation?  It’s got potential.  Myself, I think I’m inclined to believe them…

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Dropping the Facade

Putting Up the Facade

Personally, I think facade is such an awesome word.  Granted, it’s from the French but not everything can be perfect can it?  (I have a degree in French, so I think I’m allowed to say that!)  Still, it’s an amazing word.  By definition, it means: a front or outer appearance, especially a deceptive one.  At least, that’s the definition that I’m using.

A person behind a mask.I’ve talked before in my journey about how I put up a mask, a facade of sorts.  It’s my way of keeping my depression hidden, my feelings all bottled in so that no one will notice.  As my goddaughter is a huge Frozen fan, the phrase “don’t let them in, don’t let them see” springs to mind. Whether you would associate that with Frozen or not, it’s what I do.  It’s a coping mechanism, allowing me to have those moments of privacy, without people asking what’s wrong and risking accentuating the problem.

Really, the facade is a lifeline, allowing me to try and convince you that I’m fine.  I talked about that back in November, when I talked about how I smile even though things might be bad.  The facade saves me, fools you and, consequently, fools me a little too.  Daft, I know, but it works.

“Why Don’t You Drop the Facade?”

I’ve lost count of the number of times people ask me this or I’ve heard other people struggling with this problem, so it’s about time I address it. It’s one of the hardest concepts for people who aren’t going through mental health struggles have to face.  They don’t understand it, which is something we need to address.  So here I am, let’s look.

It must be hard, seeing your sibling/partner/spouse/parent/child going through mental health struggles.  They want to make it better, to bring them some measure of comfort or to fix it.  That said, it’s not something they can necessarily fix, as I’ve said before.  It must be even harder, though, for them to want to help but be greeted with that rock-solid facade of pretence that hides how they’re truly feeling.  It must be difficult.

I once heard of someone who really didn’t understand why their spouse would put up the front.  They were married, why did they need a facade? Surely they could be open and honest about it without the need of that wall of pretence?

Simply put: it’s necessary.

We can’t just drop the facade.

It’s a part of us.

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My Mask and Me

As I’ve talked about in Masks and Masquerades, putting on a mask is part of the coping mechanisms that some of us employ in order to get through the day.  In my case, if I can convince you that I’m alright then I stand a chance of being able to convince myself that I’m alright.  It doesn’t always work but it’s one of the ways that I can try and get through.

For others, they will have different reasons why they put on the mask. Some will put it on to stave off any unwanted questions – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and talk to them about it, though.  Others put it on because someone asking them how they are is the easiest way for them to go to pieces.  For every person, it’s a different reason and I couldn’t even begin to list them all here.  One thing remains true for all of us , though, no matter why we do it…

The mask is part of us.

Another person behind a mask.There comes a point in our struggles when we become used to the mask. Putting that facade up is almost habitual, something we can do without thinking and, as such, it becomes hard to take it off again.  Yes, people would appreciate it but sometimes it’s what we need to get us through the day.  Sometimes we just don’t have the strength to take it off because of how much a part of us it is.

My example comes directly from me, where people have asked me to take my mask off.  My mask is there because I use it to cope, to get through the day, and it’s easier maintaining a front than explaining how I’m feeling and why I’m feeling that way.  Sometimes explaining those things can be incredibly difficult.  I know I offer loads of explanations but, realistically, it’s something I can do from behind a computer screen as I can take my time, I don’t have to see the expressions on people’s faces.

A Simple Suggestion

If you’re a friend or family member struggling with this concept of a mask and how they put the mask on, I’d encourage you to simply be accepting of it.  At some point they might feel able to drop the facade and let you see that they’re hurting but it’s not always the case.  Sometimes that facade might be the only thing standing between them keeping it together and them falling apart.  So please be understanding and accepting that sometimes that’s what they need.

The facade, the mask is part of them.

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Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely

I’m lonely.

How often do you hear those words?  Whether spoken out loud or written on a social media update, I find those words frequently.  People have asked me how I cope living on my own as surely I get lonely.  Back when I worked at my previous job, I’d leave work, get on the bus or, later, in the car and go back to my flat, all alone, no one there to greet me.  Some believe that was the cause of my depression.  I’m not so convinced but that’s another story.

But sometimes that’s how I like it.

People often say, when I talk about being on my own, that I have to get out more if I don’t want to be lonely.  However, I’d like to challenge that today, as I think there is a profound difference between being alone and being lonely.  Let’s see if you agree with me.

I’m Alone but Not Lonely

Sometimes a little bit of personal space is nice. Whenever I’ve been out and the depression or anxiety kicks in, there is nothing better than getting into the confines of my flat or my car, switching on my music or a video game and just blasting the thoughts and feelings away.  Listening to music, playing that video game, both can work but it seems they only work if I can actually be on my own.

I’m alone.

But I’m not lonely.

I’m making the most of my own personal space, with no one around.  I can drop my mask and leave it behind, allowing myself to be exactly as I am, without the front.  I don’t need it.  Even when I’m around friends and family, there is that guard up because I don’t want to drag them down as well.  Sometimes being alone can be the best thing ever.  It allows me to just be me.

The inspiration for this post actually came from a P!nk song that someone’s Twitter tweet made me think of.  Called Leave Me Alone, I’m Lonely, it speaks of how sometimes that personal space is good, because it allows us to have that break.  Too much of a good thing – or sometimes anything at all – can be too much, so it’s good to have a break.  Take a listen if you haven’t already heard it.

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I’m Not Alone, but I’m Lonely

Sightly harder to grasp, but it’s possible to feel lonely when you’re not alone.  When people have absolutely no idea what you’re going through, it can be quite isolating.  I distinctly remember walking into work on a really bad day, putting that front on and finding that only one person noticed.  I was surrounded by people and yet so alone that it was unbelievable. Granted, it wasn’t entirely their fault because I’d put that front up, but it was a contributing factor that no one looked.

Similarly, it is a growing problem that those of us who struggle with mental health issues find that we are put into a box in society, simply because people don’t understand mental health.  We might have plenty of friends – in person, on social media or on our phone – but we can be so alone.  As I write this, the thought of “I’m in a room full of people yet I’m so alone” is going through my head.

Even when there are all these people around, it’s easy for me to feel like a bother and not want to open up to people for fear of disturbing them or burdening them.  A difficult mindset to get out of, it isolates me.  Thus, I am with people and not alone, but I’m lonely, because I feel like I have no one to talk to.  Unfortunately, this is the category that a lot of people I talk to fall into.  They want to talk to someone yet they feel they can’t.

Learn About Lonely

My challenge for you is to learn the signs for when someone wants to be lonely.  It’s not that they don’t want your help – they probably value you a lot more than they feel able to let on – but they need a little bit of time away from everything else.  It isn’t against you, far from it, but it’s something they need at the time.  As P!nk says, “tonight, leave me alone, I’m lonely.  I’m tired, leave me alone I’m lonely”.  We will want you to come back, we just need a bit of space.  It isn’t personal.

It never is.

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A Very Mental Christmas – Day 5

Day 5 – Family Fandangos

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What a Bad Day Feels Like

Diary of a Bad Day

Most of my posts are aimed at information, or support and encouragement. I don’t often go into my own journey much. But this is something I want to share, if for no other reason it can give you an insight into what the mind of someone with depression can be like. Just from discussions with my own family, I know they don’t find it easy to understand what a bad day feels like.  But I also want to remind anyone going through this that the bad days don’t last forever. However much it may feel like it, they don’t.  As I write this I’m not too bad, I’ve been a bit up and down, but otherwise ok.  I wrote it as I felt it, so please be aware it’s not pretty.

21/11/2017

Why am I like this? I am at heart a fixer and yet I am incapable of fixing myself.  It’s the constant nagging belief that somewhere in my soul I’ve been stamped as not good enough. There is no shaking this off today. This is something ingrained and it impacts how I behave, how I am emotionally. It’s part of my mental health problem. It can make me needy, clingy and possessive. But also angry, volatile and spiteful. I hate me when I’m like this and would give anything not to be this way. Yet the question still constantly nags at me; why? Why am I like this?

Yesterday was one of those days. But it wasn’t there when I woke. It slammed into me out of the blue while out shopping. I mean shopping for heaven’s sake! From being fine to just so dragged into the darkness I was almost suffocating.  And what triggered it? Buying chocolate coins. Yep, I know. Stupid, right?  But picking up the chocolate coins for the children’s stockings for Christmas was suddenly a big deal. This will be our first Christmas not in our own home, my first Christmas on antidepressants, my first Christmas without dad… on and on the list went, and all darker thoughts than the last.  

Make it Stop

Then today. Today I have been struggling so much. The negative spiral from yesterday has continued and a huge feeling of unworthiness engulfed me this morning. The litany of self-abuse began…..Not pretty. Not thin. Too old. Ugly. Bad mom. Stupid. Irrationally jealous. Clumsy. Worthless. Worthless. Just so irrecoverably worthless. I’m praying to feel numb but it isn’t coming.  I’m hiding my arms because I’ve drawn blood with my fingernails. It was that or the blade. And I’m overwhelmed with guilt that all I want to do is draw more blood to help switch these feelings off..

All I see is how unworthy I am. I don’t deserve happiness, love, anything. How would anyone? Every part of me is saying I am not good, yet I should be ok. I have so much to be happy about. But it’s the sense that I don’t deserve anything good that’s crippling me.

I want to tell those I love what’s going on. But the fear is holding me back. It’s stifling me. I fear I will push them away. All these feelings are crashing around my brain and it’s like I can’t see anything but how unworthy I am. Like the jealousy. How do I explain that all it’s making me do is want to turn against myself?  To hate myself even more?

I’m terrified that it will scare them how dark my mind is going. Perhaps by recognizing these feelings today I will feel a little better. I know it’s depression that’s driving this. The rational part of my brain wants to see the reality, but it’s clouded. I just wish I knew why. All I want to do right now is let the darkness engulf me. I’m not going to let it, I have too many things to hold on to, but it’s really hard.

Being There

So as you can probably tell, those particular days were rough. But I got through. It took a little self-care, some encouragement and support and a few well timed hugs. So if there is someone you care about going through this, you now know something about what a bad day feels like. So be there for them, because can you imagine facing your own mind attacking you like that without someone to help you through?

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

I Am Cut

*This post come with potential trigger warnings.*

Cut

I wanted to tell you a little bit about what self-harming is like.  To do that, I wanted to write about when it’s happened to me.  What happens when I pick up that blade, what happens when I get the urge.  So, I’ve gone onto my old blog and pulled a post that I wrote not long after it had happened. Here we go…

Blood and a Blade

There’s blood.  So much blood.  It’s fairly late on Sunday evening and I’m sitting in the bathroom looking at the crimson liquid running down my leg.  Amazing what a razor blade can do to the fragile body I’m trapped in.  Only three cuts but there is quite a bit of blood.  Strangely it doesn’t bother me though.  Is that a bad thing?

How did I get here?  Right now my mind is whirling trying to remember as I write this for you.  My day wasn’t a bad day, if anything it was a fairly decent day.  By decent, I mean nothing too bad happened.  Does that make a difference?  For reasons that I still don’t know, however, my mood dropped like a stone.  Overwhelming, it swept me up and washed me away in a torrent of despair and crushing darkness and a single thought pounded over and over in my head: you’re not worth anything.  Just get it over with.  End it.  Finish it.

In that moment, as overwhelmed as I was, I felt as if I had two choices: either end it once and for all or take it out on myself.  I’m not worth it so why should I care?  Ending it all wasn’t an option, as there are reasons for me to live, so in my state at that point I only had one option, one way out of the crushing darkness and back into some state of decent emotional level: self-harm.

Slowly I pick up the blade.  Almost absently, as though I’m not really telling myself what to do, I put the blade to my skin and slowly, ever so slowly, I drag it.  Blood wells up immediately, as though the thoughts and the darkness is being carried out of me in that crimson stream.  Quickly, without thinking, I add another.  And another.

Hand shaking slightly, I put the blade down. Three cuts was all it took to shake me out of those thoughts.  Numb, I watched the blood for a moment, feeling my chest loosen, my heart stop thumping as hard as it had been and my mind to slowly quieten.  Then, as I watch the blood trickle across my knee, the realisation of what I’ve done suddenly sinks in.

Horrified, I drop the blade, which hits the floor with a clatter.  Grabbing some toilet paper, I press it against the wounds and sit there, shaking. One thing I’d always said is that I’d never get to this stage and suddenly I’m there, swept up like a bit of driftwood in a current.  In my shamed and slightly panicked state I nearly pick the blade up again to release those thoughts but instead I push myself up and hobble to the living room. Barely able to make myself work properly, I grab my phone and punch in the first name I can think of,  It rings…and rings…and rings…and suddenly my friend is there asking if I’m alright.  For a long moment words failed me.  At least it seemed like a long moment to me.  I remember uttering the words “I’ve done something stupid” and then, like a dam bursting, the words come tumbling out.

I have no idea how long I sat there, shaking on the living room floor, talking to my friend.  All the while she tells me it’s ok, it will be ok and all the while I want to scream that it isn’t ok.  But I can’t.  All I can do is repeat that I don’t know what I’ve done.  I answer questions, I comply with instructions as she talks me through stopping the bleeding but over and over in my mind is the thought “what have I done…?”  I can’t explain it properly because I don’t understand it.  I just know it’s happened.

Wednesday evening it happened again, once more for no discernible reason.  At last count, I have sixteen cuts on my leg.  Sixteen reminders that I failed to stop myself.  Sixteen reminders that I fought myself and lost.  Sixteen symbols that I feel worthless.  Some would say it’s a cry for help, which maybe it is.  Others would say it’s an attempt to get attention…but I don’t want that.  I want to stop but deep down I know it helped.  Even if it was only temporary, it stopped everything.  I think, like stubbing one’s toe on a door would temporarily let you forget about a headache you have, this allowed me to temporarily subdue the thoughts in my head.  It shouldn’t have helped…but it did.

And I hate myself for it…because I said I never would…

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Practically Perfect – Part 5 – Time Out

Welcome to part 5, the final part, of our Practically Perfect series.  In case you missed part 4, you can check it out here.  In today’s post, we’re looking at the importance of time out.  How about we take a look?

Time Out

Whenever I babysit my goddaughter, one of the things that we put into place for discipline is time out.  If she is naughty, she goes and sits on a chair for a little bit so that she is away from her toys or TV or whatever she happens to be doing at the time.  It’s an enforced period of quiet so that she has time to reflect on the fact that she’s crossed the line.

Now, I’m clearly not referring to that sort of time out in this post but the concepts are quite similar.  In my opinion, while everything I’ve mentioned in both this series, About of Self-Harm and Talking Things Through are important, it is equally important for you to take some time out.

Why take some time out?  What purpose does it serve?  Well, naturally it isn’t so you can think about what you’ve done wrong – although a little time out every now and again when things do go wrong isn’t necessarily a bad thing!!  No, its purpose is a bit different.  Let me tell you about that.

Time to Recharge

The other week I was interacting on our Twitter account, joining a few conversations and chatting to a few people, and I came across the following:

Would you agree?  Is it possible to help others if you’ve broken yourself due to neglecting yourself?  Surely at some point you have to take some time out for yourself so you can get some help, wouldn’t you agree?

When supporting someone through mental health struggles, it can be so easy to forget yourself.  I speak as a first-hand offender on this count!  You get so caught up in trying to help them that you forget that you need a break.  As Aidan said: “Peace of mind is everything.”  We need to have those moments of peace in our lives, otherwise we will burn ourselves out.

Practise the Pause

In Episode 5 of the PBTS Podcast, I talked about practising the pause.  Taking a few moments out of your busy days to do something that you enjoy.  For me, that could be computer gaming or watching a good film.  For some it could be a relaxing bath or a good book.  Whatever it is you enjoy, take some time out to do that.

Effectively, put yourself on time out.

Turn off your phone, turn off your Facebook or Twitter and simply be.  You don’t have to respond to those messages instantaneously or be constantly online.  The world can do without you for a few moments so you can simply rest.  Recharge.  Take a break.

It’s important for your own well-being.

Take a moment.  Stop.  Practise the pause.  Looking after yourself is one of the most important things you can do.

After all: how can you look after someone else when you’re on the verge of collapse?

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.